What comes to mind when you think of Hawaii? Beaches? Sun, sand and surf? While it’s undeniable that Hawaii is all these things, this tropical paradise is home to much more than your traditional luaus, leis and hula dances. A stay at the Fairmont Orchid is one that will open your eyes to the side of Hawaiian culture that often gets lost in the tourist traps of the Big Island.
This AAA Four Diamond Resort is situated along the majestic Kohala Coast on 32 acres of oceanfront property on the island of Hawaii within Mauna Lani Resort’s 3,200 acres. In addition to stunning views of the Pacific Ocean, from the property, you can also view five mountains including Maunakea, the world’s tallest mountain when measured from its base on the seafloor.
The sprawling property is expertly manicured, while the staff is beyond welcoming. You truly feel like one of the family upon arrival, at which you’re greeted with a Kukui nut lei and a warm aloha. The luxury hotel is home to 540 rooms and 54 suites, 20 of which are ocean-facing. It’s the kind of resort that allows you to relax and unwind or seek out adventure and thrills, all without leaving the premises.
For those lucky enough to book a luxe suite on the Fairmont Gold Floor, you have access to dedicated Fairmont Gold ambassadors attending to your every need as well as access to the exclusive Gold lounge during your stay, which includes an outdoor lanai, private check-in and deluxe breakfast, afternoon tea and evening canapes. Getting quality food and refreshments couldn’t have been easier, allowing maximum time to venture to the beach and explore the resort.
The Fairmont Orchid boasts a 10,000-square-foot free-form heated swimming pool, a 10-court Tennis Pavilion with full-service pro shop, clinics and tournaments; basketball and sand volleyball courts; scenic walking and jogging trails; as well as two 18-hole championship golf courses: Mauna Lani North and South and the Par 3 WikiWiki Course.
What really separates a stay here versus any other luxury property is the wide range of activities that immerse guests in the spirit of aloha. The staff encourages guests to embrace the culture and history of Hawaii as they learn more about it all through authentic experiences.
“The greatest benefit of all of our cultural offerings is the Hawaiian value of aloha that we share with our guests before we start, as aloha is at the core and foundation of all we do. We find that this has a profound impact on many of our guests who leave their experiences with us thinking of their day and future with purpose and intention,” says Ka’iulani Blankenfeld, the Director of Hawaiian Culture at the Fairmont Orchid.
“We share these stories and experiences with hundreds of guests each day and many share with us that these experiences touch and open their minds and hearts to new perspectives and possibilities for their lives and future.”
The Hui Holokai beach ambassadors lead guests on a number of experiences to introduce them to the culture of Hawaii, such as lei making, ukulele lessons, weaving hala (pandanus) fronds, stargazing, canoe paddling in the open ocean and archeological hikes on the nearby petroglyph fields, the largest in the Hawaiian islands. They lead an array of Hawaiian activities from sunrise to sunset, starting with the Sunrise Canoe experience, which was an incredible way to start the day.
Despite being very early (6:15 am!), I embarked at sunrise with my Hui Holokai Ambassador and helped paddle a traditional Hawaiian Canoe out into the beautiful, calm waters right off the Fairmont’s private lagoon. As we paddled, our guide taught us about the history of the Hawaiian method of transportation within the islands, the origins of the gorgeous scenery around us, shared his personal experiences with nature and so much more.
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At one point we stopped paddling to admire our surroundings, enjoy the peaceful sounds of the ocean and to express gratitude to Mother Nature for providing the beauty around us. He also chanted a traditional mele Komo (Hawaiian greeting song) before we paddled back, which made it an extra special experience.
“Each Friday we meet at Ahuakupuna (alter) to honor and remember our ancestors. Everyone is invited to join us to honor and connect with their elders and ancestors in this unique Hawaiian tradition,” continues Blankenfeld.
“Ultimately, we want our guests to walk away knowing they experienced truly authentic Hawaiian culture, aloha, Hawaiian hospitality that has filled a space in their minds and hearts forever, and that they are now family and we welcome them to come back.”
The Fairmont also offers hula and wili lei making experiences for guests, giving them the opportunity to learn a bit of history and cultural significance of these Hawaiian traditions. Guests leave each class having learned a hula that they can share with their family and friends or with a beautiful wili lei and the ability to continue this craft at home during their very own special occasions, explains Blankenfeld.
One of the best and most unique things about staying at the Fairmont is definitely the easy access to the ocean. The property features a calm, stunning lagoon that opens up into the ocean, offering a safe area to relax in the crystal clear blue waters of the sea, without having to worry about getting pulled out or getting caught in rough waters.
Right off this beach is some of the most incredible snorkeling I’ve ever done! I highly recommend snorkeling to get up-close-and-personal encounters with a huge variety of sea creatures. Within minutes of swimming out of the lagoon area, I was able to see multiple sea turtles, pufferfish, a range of diverse, vibrantly colored fish, anemone, eels and so much more. Guests can easily float above the healthy reefs to see all the sea life. It’s wild!
Other ocean activities include scuba, kayaking and stand up paddleboarding, each of which gives you the chance to soak in the sun while getting out on the sparkling waters of the ocean.
Another recommended experience? Floating yoga on the water. It’s another spiritually uplifting way to start your morning with gratitude while incorporating strength training and stretching.
Follow that up with the most relaxing massage you’ll ever experience at the Spa Without Walls. The award-winning spa boasts eight outdoor huts, six oceanfront massage cabanas and three indoor treatment rooms. Book an oceanfront massage. You won’t regret it.
For those interested in conservation and beekeeping, you’re in the right place. The Fairmont has an in-house beekeeper and honey connoisseur who can show you the property’s flow hives. Michael Domeier, who happens to also be one of the premier white shark researchers in the world and owner of Rare Hawaiian Honey Company, tends to the property’s 80,000 honeybees which produce kiawe honey—one of the rarest honey in the world.
And when it comes to eating, the Fairmont has you covered thanks to its five dining options.
For fine dining reserve a table at Brown’s Beach House, a AAA Four Diamond award-winning oceanfront restaurant serving Hawai‘i Island-inspired fresh seafood and produce. For more casual options, Hale Kai Restaurant offers oceanside lunch and dinner options served alongside crystalline cocktails near the pool, while Brown’s Deli is a gourmet deli and coffee bar featuring local favorites such as shave ice and spam musubi.
Orchid Court is the place to go for a lavish breakfast buffet or tempting à la carte items such as Crispy Sweetbread French Toast. Lastly, there’s the Orchid Court Grill, a new pop-up at the Orchid Court featuring authentic, traditional Japanese delicacies such as Hawaii-raised Kampachi and hand-crafted sushi rolls.
Visit here for more info on the Fairmont Orchid.